For the second straight campaign, Dunfield overcame a weak showing in the Lawrence City Commission primary to earn a commission seat in the general election.
After a fourth-place showing in February's primary, Dunfield took second -- and a four-year term -- in Tuesday's general election with an unofficial 4,579 votes. He placed behind novice candidate Sue Hack, who finished first with 4,736 votes, and ahead of fellow incumbent Marty Kennedy with 4,221 votes.
The top three vote-getters from the field of six take seats on the commission next week.
Dunfield pulled a similar move in 1999, when he beat out the primary's top vote-getter and moved from fourth to third place in the general election.
"I think it was clear ... after the primary, people woke up to what was going on and started thinking about the issues," Dunfield said Tuesday night.
Kennedy had a simpler explanation.
"I think our Commissioner Dunfield raised a lot more money, spent a lot more money and had a tremendous amount of support," Kennedy said.
Indeed, the top three finishers were the candidates who spent the most money down the stretch. Dunfield spent $7,872 between Feb. 16 and March 22, barely edging Hack and Kennedy, who spent $7,633 and $7,580, respectively.
Hack's community networking, the result of three decades of teaching in Lawrence schools, helped propel her to the top spot in the election. She becomes the first woman to sit on the commission since Bonnie Augustine left in 1999.
"I'm just thrilled," Hack said. "I think it represents an awful lot of work by an awful lot of good people."
But the challenger's victory meant an incumbent's loss. Erv Hodges was the leading fund-raiser for the campaign with $14,880 in the last report, but was only the fourth-leading spender down the stretch. He finished in fourth place with 4,060 votes.
"I have no regrets over my past four years," he said. "I think we've done plenty to be proud of."
Challengers Scott Bailey and Adam Mansfield finished in fifth and sixth places, respectively, with 3,961 votes and 2,527 votes. Both vowed to remain active in public life.
Hack said she'll spend her first weeks on the commission trying to learn instead of pursuing an agenda.
"I think what I'm concerned about is the tone of the commission as a whole," she said.
The commission, with the exception of Hack replacing Hodges, will be the same one that has governed the city the past two years.
"I think it's a pendulum swinging into balance," Commissioner Mike Rundle said. "Whenever the whole commission turns over, it gets unbalanced, and that's unhealthy for the community."
-- Staff writer Joel Mathis can be reached at 832-7126.